The Case of Al Satrawi’s Extended Family: An Example of Discrimination Violating the Law in Granting Citizenship

Al Haj Saleh bin Ahmad Al Satrawi, is a Bahraini citizen from Sitra Island, whom Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid bin Abd Al Wahab Al Khalifa disagreed with on the possession of a piece of land. The court released in its book, issue nr. 1439 for the year 1356 Hijri, under the management of the Bahrain government’s counsellor, a default judgement that only a quarter of the land is for Al Haj Saleh. Because Al Haj Saleh considered the courts judgement unjust and bias, he did not accept it. He was attacked in his home and he was exposed to an attempt on his life, so he fled with his children to Iraq, and that was in the year 1938.

In a dated letter on Ramadan 16th 1356 Hijri, the Bahrain government’s counsellor wrote to Al Haj Saleh bin Ahmad Al Satrawi in his residence in Basra: ‘In reference to your undated book regarding what you claim about Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, the case has been resolved and you got a quarter of the palm trees. Therefore the lawsuit is over and there is no need to constantly send letters in this regard.’

Al Haj Saleh used to hold passport nr. 19 and a citizenship certificate nr. 438 and he used to hold residence identification in the Basra province issued in the year 1939. He passed away in Basra in the year 1946. Two of his sons are still alive and they hold the old Bahraini passports. The number of children and grandchildren are now almost 100 person, most of them still live in Basra in Iraq.

In the year 1957, all the Iraqis including the residents were added up, and the family of Al Haj Saleh was considered Iraqi and they got the Iraqi citizenship. However, in the year 1986 an order was issued from the Iraqi government to denaturalize all residents whose grandparents held residents before the population statistic of 1957 and getting a residence was regarded illegal because they concealed their real identity. As a result of that they got exposed to a lot of harassments.

We have documents that were released by the Iraqi government circulating to all quarters and universities that the children of Al Haj Saleh Al Satrawi are not Iraqis, but are holders of the Bahraini citizenship. That greatly influenced the way they were treated by official bodies, their children’s studies in university, job applications and even in getting ration cards during the economic blockade on Iraq. The children of Al Haj Saleh suffered from a lot of insults when consulting governmental departments, especially when the relation between the Iraqi government and the Gulf States became tense. Some of their children were also not issued residence cards. They are currently working in the low level jobs despite that some of them hold university certificates.

In April 1989, Hashim Abd Al Razaq tried entering Bahrain along with his father, as Abd Al Razaq carried the old Bahraini passport, but they were held in the airport for three days, then they were deported to Baghdad. In the year 1990, the children of Al Haj Saleh consulted the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad, and they were given certificates proving that they requested getting passports in order to help them in dealing with the Iraqi authorities. During Iraq’s invasion on Kuwait, members of the family went to the Bahraini embassy in Kuwait, as the Bahraini community was residing in the embassy. The children of Al Haj Saleh went through many risks to supply food and to deliver the wax sealed correspondences between the Bahraini embassies in Kuwait and Baghdad. They received a letter of certificate regarding that from the ambassador.

However, the children of Al Haj Saleh stayed until this moment without benefiting from the right of getting a passport and the freedom of mobility. In the year 1995, some of them tried to leave Iraq with women and children, after getting visas for Jordan. But at the borders of Jordan, they were investigated for many hours and then were returned to Iraq and were told to ask the Iraqi authorities for the reason.

On October 10th, 2000, in a verdict pronounced from the High Civil Court in Bahrain, in a lawsuit filed by 6 of Saleh Al Satrawi’s grandchildren against the Directorate of Immigration and Passports, the verdict was pronounced compelling the defendant to issue Bahraini passports to the suitors. That is based on the defendants being Bahrainis by ancestry according to what article 4 from the citizenship law of the year 1963 states, as there father is of a Bahraini nationality and has a Bahraini passport.

However, in a reply from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to a letter from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), dated January 6th, 2004 the following was mentioned: ‘According to the provisions of article (3) of the Bahraini citizenship law for year 1963, amended by the announcement nr. 11/1963, (the family of Al Haj Saleh Al Satrawi) are not considered Bahrainis, knowing that a verdict was pronounced from the Supreme Court regarding that by an appeal numbered 323/2002’

The family is currently spread in different countries: almost 75 in Iraq, 7 people in Kuwait and 17 sought refuge in Europe by the help of the United Nations after being forced to leave Kuwait after the war. Sixty six of Al Haj Saleh’s children and grandchildren are Bahrainis and legally have the right to obtain passports and to return to their country, Bahrain.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) released certificates entitling the members of this family refuge because they were deprived of their original citizenship and their right in returning to their country Bahrain. In a follow-up to one of the family’s member’s case with one of the Bahraini Diplomatic Missions outside, it was said to the Commission’s delegate that the reason for not permitting their return to Bahrain is that their grandfather led an attempt to break up Sitra Island!!

Subsequent to when Sheikh Hamad bin Isa came to power, the family wrote to him a group of letters requiring returning to Bahrain. They told us that a bargain was made in order to grant them passports as long as they renounce their old properties, and some of them were ready for that on the condition of actually securing the ability of regaining the citizenship. After the Iraqi regime’s downfall, as I was on a visit to Basra among the delegation of Amnesty International, they came to present their case. They are currently in constant touch with the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), as they requested from the BCHR to follow-up their case.

The case of Al Haj Saleh Al Satrawi’s family is not an isolated case, yet it is an exemplar case which discloses the regime’s nature and its procedures. Through this case, the governorship of the law can be tested, and the nature of the Bahraini citizenship law and its efficiency. The case of Al Haj Saleh’s family can be compared to the cases of thousands of tribal Syrians, Yemenis and Saudi Arabians who were granted the citizenship secretly without meeting the criteria, and even though they hold another effective citizenship. This reveals the manipulation in the law, abuse of power, corruption and racial and sectarian discrimination in granting the Bahraini citizenship.

The story of Al Haj Saleh’s family is the story of Bahrain, and it shows to what extent there is need for a real reform that makes Bahrain a state of law, and not the possession of a group or certain family that acts the way it wishes to.